Why you shouldn’t linger in hurricane floodwaters

Multiple parts of Florida were left underwater due to Hurricane Ian this week

Amber Raiken
New York
Friday 30 September 2022 22:21 BST
Hurricane Ian batters Florida

As Hurricane Ian slammed Florida, with wind speeds over 150mph, multiple people have shared videos of themselves swimming through floodwaters. We’re here to tell you why you shouldn’t do the same.

On Wednesday, social media users shared footage varying floods around the state, which were a result of the Category four hurricane (which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm). Ian has left parts of Florida underwater and major infrastructures damaged, with Gov Ron DeSantis describing the natural disaster as a “500-year flood event”.

While officials have encouraged Florida residents to avoid the floods, one man shared a video of himself swimming inside a house in Naples Park, Florida, flooded with water from the storm.

The clip, which was shared on Twitter, has notably sparked anger among viewers, one of which replied: “DO NOT DO THIS. You don’t know what may be in this water, including chemicals!”

As that critic noted, swimming in these waters is extremely unsafe for multiple reasons. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lingering around floodwater can pose a risk of drowning, despite how strong of a swimmer someone may be.

“Swiftly moving shallow water can be deadly, and even shallow standing water can be dangerous for small children,” the health organisation writes on its site.

Additionally, you don’t “exactly know” what is inside floodwater. Floodwater can contain a variety of harmful things, including “downed power lines,” “physical objects such as lumber, vehicles, and debris,” and “human and livestock waste,” says the CDC.

Ultimately, the unknown materials within floodwaters can put your health at risk, causing problems such as a skin rash to a wound infection.

If you do come in contact with floodwater, the CDC urges you to take a few safety precautions afterwards. They advise you to wash the parts of their bodies that came in contact with the water and to wash any “contaminated” clothing “in hot water and detergent, before reusing them”.

The public health agency emphasises that the best thing to do is “stay out” of these unsafe waters.

“It is important to protect yourself from exposure to flood water regardless of the source of contamination,” the site writes. “The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.”

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